Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany believes the battle for Mancunian football supremacy is in the balance – seven years on from United not giving their neighbours a second thought.
The 29-year-old will make his 19th Manchester derby appearance if selected by manager Manuel Pellegrini for Sunday’s match at Old Trafford and he has seen the dynamic of the rivalry change considerably since he arrived at Eastlands in August 2008.
Kompany was one of the last players to sign for City before Sheikh Mansour’s takeover sensationally transformed the club’s fortunes, from those of Premier League also-rans operating in the considerable shadow of Alex Ferguson’s United to challengers for major honours.
In his early days with City, Kompany felt United saw his club as unimportant, with feats such as their subsequent Premier League title triumphs of 2011-12 and 2013-14 scarcely credible.
During the latter season, United limped to a seventh-place finish following David Moyes’ torturous stint as Ferguson’s successor, but Kompany feels they are now displaying some of the fire of old under Louis van Gaal.
“Going into those derbies about seven years ago and it wasn’t an important game for them,” he said in a video interview with MCFC.co.uk.
“We always hoped we could do something but really they were too strong for us.
“That’s changed over the years – it’s even gone the other way completely at some stages.
“I think it’s back in balance now. United have got a good team, they’ve got good players and a system that they’re getting used to.
“It’s 50/50 really now and it makes those games even bigger.
“I think they care more now than they’d like to show. I really think that for them, this is almost just as close as Liverpool – they do not want to lose that game.
“It makes it more interesting. It’s always been the most important game for us but it’s just an incredible day to be part of – something that always means a lot to me every single year.”
Having settled in the city, with a Mancunian wife and family, Kompany thoroughly appreciates the subtleties surrounding the fixture.
“The [derby] games in Belgium are big and they mean a lot to them but you’re literally in each other’s back garden here – it’s within the families, it’s within people that work in the shops. It’s everywhere,” he added.
“There are always going to be people that are going to give you a colour wherever they come from in Manchester. They are either blue or they are red.
“It’s just a game that has an impact on your daily life. If you lose the game it’s a different week for you; you win the game and it’s a happy week.”
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